7 September 2000

Press Briefing



The Kashmir question must be resolved for there to be peace in South Asia, Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf said at a Headquarters press conference this afternoon. He said the issue -- a conflict between India and Pakistan -- had been "denied resolution since 1948".

He said other problems in the region were "irritants, not disputes". To have peace in South Asia, the Kashmir conflict must be resolved. With peace, all efforts would be concentrated on economic development and cooperation. There was need for cooperation to promote economic development and improvement in the lot of the region's poor.

Discussing Pakistan's domestic problems, he said he was aware that the world was concerned about democracy. His view was that the world should be concerned with "the essence of democracy, the application of democracy, not merely concerned with electing or holding elections".

He said democracy started with the holding of elections and having peoples' representatives. "But then it is the behaviour, the governance that those elected representatives provide for the country that is the real democracy", he said and added: "So, we stand for real democracy. I stand for real democracy. I'll ensure the essence of democracy is brought into Pakistan".

His Government's priorities were the revival of the economy, which was in dire straits, he said. The next priority was improvement of governance and providing continuity and sustainability in whatever the Government was doing. The Government wanted to introduce a political structure and a political culture that would give prominence to the reforms being undertaken.

Giving his impressions about the Millennium Summit currently under way at Headquarters, he said two issues had come into special focus. The first was peace and conflict, and dispute resolution. The second was poverty alleviation and the debt burden of developing countries.

His Government was in total agreement with the strengthening of conflict resolution ,he explained. His recommendation and suggestion was that the United Nations should have a much stronger mechanism in place for conflict and dispute resolution. "This happens to be the main cause of disturbance of peace, therefore it was most essential, first of all."

The issues of debt servicing, debt relief, and the burden of debt of developing countries had been highlighted in the debates, including at the second interactive round table which took place this morning. He had suggested that money spent by developing countries on debt servicing should be diverted to education, health and the provision of other social benefits. "This could be the biggest relief for all developing countries", he said.

Pakistan Press Conference - 2 - 7 September 2000

Responding to a question, he said he saw change in peoples understanding of the Kashmir issue. There was need for resolute effort to settle the problem, which was now more in focus.

He told a correspondent that the reality of Afghanistan was that the Taliban was there, and controlled about 90 per cent of the country. His belief was that the Taliban regime needed to be engaged by the world community.

Asked about reported initiatives of the Prime Minister of Bangladesh to mediate in the Kashmir conflict, he said he had met the Prime Minister at the Summit, but that had not been discussed. However, he would appreciate any attempt by anyone to help resolve the dispute between India and Pakistan, as long as it was understood that the core dispute was Kashmir. "We accept any mediation, any action which will reduce tensions in South Asia."

Asked what responses he had received in his bilateral discussions at the Millennium Summit about his country, he said, "I will like to flatter myself by saying they were very positive". Leaders he had met understood the problems in Pakistan -- the background and the circumstances leading to the military takeover. The responsibility of power had been entrusted to him and he had accepted the challenge, he said, and would set Pakistan on the right course.

Responding to a question about alleged discrimination against minorities, he said the questioner would be surprised to learn that minorities would be represented in elections at the local and provincial levels. It was an unprecedented development.

Asked whether his Government had renounced the first use of nuclear weapons, as intimated in his Summit speech, General Musharraf said he would go a step further. Conflicts in South Asia should be banished. "Let's remove all nuclear weapons from there." He added that he was for "no use of force".

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